London Free Press Contact: Date: Thu, 1 May 1997 LFP London & Region Another researcher defends cannabis as cash crop The former agronomist with an agricultural college says hemp can be used in paper production, clothing, plastic materials, concrete materials and for many other uses. By Eric Bender Free Press Reporter A second scientist has said at the trial of hemp store operator Chris Clay that he has "enthusiasm" for the cultivation of industrial cannabis. Gordon Scheifele, a former agronomist with the Ridgetown Agricultural College who grew licensed plots of cannabis plants for two years, told Ontario court Justice John McCart Wednesday he sees great potential for commercial hemp as an alternative cash crop in Southwestern Ontario. Scheifele has left employment with the provincial Ministry of Agriculture and Food at the college because of downsizing in the research area and is in the process of moving to Thunder Bay. He'll be working for the University of Guelph, doing much of the same work including cannabis research for development in the northwestern region. Although the bulk of his career work has been corn research, he said, the ministry has been interested in exploring alternative crops. Scheifele said that among the alternatives, low toxicity cannabis or hemp plants have the greatest variety of uses. He listed fibre for paper production, clothing, plastic materials, concrete materials, fibreboard, and oils and seeds for the food industry. FIBREGLASS: He said the auto industry is extremely interested in hemp "fibreglass" because it is stronger, more flexible and lighter. In Europe, he said, interiors of Mercedes and Volvo cars have hemp interiors and dashboards. And in England, the Queen's own horses are bedded in hemp shavings. He said cannabis is recognized as "a natural, annually renewable fibre for many uses." Scheifele said the government's interest in commercial hemp has arisen as an economic concern resulting in the first test plots being licensed in 1994 after a 56-year hiatus. Cannabis was banned in Canada in 1923 because of concern over the intoxicating effects following human consumption. Clay and employee Jordan Prentice were charged two years ago in a raid on his shop with several counts of possessing and trafficking marijuana in violation of the Narcotics Control Act. NOT GUILTY PLEAS: Both have pleaded not guilty and are mounting a defence that the act should not include non-intoxicating materials. They are prepared to argue constitutional matters surrounding the criminalization of marijuana and personal freedoms. Clay is proprietor of the Hemp Nation retail store at 343 Richmond St. Scheifele, testifying for the defence, added his supportive voice for hemp potential to that of federal Agriculture Canada scientist Ernest Small, who said he has "enthusiasm" for the crop. Small said that as a civil servant he has had to be careful about expressing his beliefs because of "sensitivity" on the part of the department and government to the cannabis issue. He said it may be even more sensitive during an election campaign. However, he told the judge, he was speaking his mind in court. Scheifele said in his discussions with Health Canada and other departmental officials he has learned the government recognizes the "commercial development" that hemp production can achieve. He said there is a belief hemp cultivation and processing can develop into regional industries in areas such as the Essex-Kent-Lambton region and the northwest area of the province. It was Small who suggested a now-established guideline of 0.3-per-cent toxicity in cannabis as the defining level between toxic and non-toxic cannabis plants. Lower toxicity plants tend to be the fibrous hemp variety, he said. The 0.3-per-cent threshold has been adopted around the world, court was told. The trial is to resume Monday.